A SMALL COLLECTION OF ANTIQUE SILVER
AND OBJECTS OF VERTU
THE WHAT IS? SILVER DICTIONARY

DUTY DODGER
DUTY MARK
PSEUDO HALLMARK

In England duty has been paid as a tax on silverware since 18th Century. The tax was paid at the time of assay, and the amount due related to the weight of the article. From 1784 until 1890 a mark with the head in profile of the Sovereign in escutcheon was punched on articles to attest that the excise dute had been paid.
"DUTY DODGER" is the definition of unscrupulous silversmiths that used several methods to avoid paying the tax:
- inserting into a new article an existing set of hallmarks removed from an old piece;
- stamping his own makers mark four times to simulate hallmarks and then distorting them (especially on spoons) so that an unwary buyer might think them to be official marks of the Assay Office;
- inserting into a large piece a small disk bearing marks from an article on which a low tax had been paid.
Duty Dodger is also the definition applied to a piece so altered and considered fake and illegal.


hallmarks on duty dodgers coffee pot

An example of "Duty Dodging" was presented in our companion website www.ASCASonline.org: a coffee pot bearing London hallmarks.
In ASCAS website Giovanni Ciceri (http://www.argentinglesi.com) wrote:
.....'Duty dodging' requires a close examination of hallmarks. At that time, coffee pots hallmarks were impressed either in a straight line (just under the edge of the pot, starting from the handle), or in the base (the maker's mark positioned in the centre and the others symmetrically impressed around it). Hallmarks impressed in a straight line under the pot or scattered around the maker's mark are highly probably the result of 'duty dodging'. Usually coffee pots subjected to 'duty dodging' were hallmarked in the base, the best position to hide soldering signs (if they are impressed in a straight line under the pot they are, quite surely, taken from a spoon). Sometimes, is easy to identify these forgeries as a line of deeper colour appears around the transposed hallmarks, owing to the faster oxidizing of the soldering alloy (it contains a lower amount of silver than the sterling standard). The best way to evidence this dark outline is to breathe on the hallmark or to heat with a flame.
But, usually, discovering 'duty dodging' isn't an easy task. A quite perfect technique of 'duty dodging' was to solder under the pot a dish obtained by hammering an open salt cellar, just at the junction between the base, the seamed body of the pot and the foot. This fraud may be evidenced only unsoldering the pedestal and ascertaining the presence of a double bottom. Another way is to verify the presence of the so called 'ghost hallmarks' (the relief left inside the pot by mark's impression). If the 'ghost hallmarks' correspond to the position of the hallmarks on the outside and there's no evidence of transposition, 'duty dodging' may be reasonably excluded. (obviously the 'duty dodgers' finishing the object may have eliminated the 'wrong ghost hallmarks' or the plate's thickness may have prevented their presence). A close inspection of our coffee pot may exclude any 'duty dodging' or transposition of hallmarks....

Ultimately the London Assay Office verified the piece and found it to be a 'duty dodger'.

hallmarks on duty dodgers coffee pot hallmarks on duty dodgers coffee pot

The DUTY MARK was punched on English silver items from December 1, 1784 to April 30, 1890. This mark was the head in profile of the reigning Sovereign in an escutcheon. In Ireland the duty mark was imposed since 1730 and until 1807 was the seated figure of Hibernia (thereafter the Sovereign's head was introduced). In Scotland the duty mark of the Sovereign's head was introduced in 1819.
These are the main characteristics (with numerous variants) of Sovereign's head marks:
George III facing left, punched in intaglio in an octagonal escutcheon, from December 1784 to 29 May 1786
George III facing right, punched in relief into an oval escutcheon, from 1786
George IV facing right, punched in relief into an oval escutcheon, from 1821
William IV facing right, punched in relief into an oval escutcheon, from 1834
Victoria facing left, punched in relief into an oval escutcheon, until 1890


LON=London - BIR=Birmingham - DUB=Dublin - EDI=Edinburgh - GLA=Glasgow - SHE=Sheffield
Sovereign's head 1784 Sovereign's head 1787 Sovereign's head 1795 Sovereign's head 1797 Sovereign's head 1804 Sovereign's head 1812 Sovereign's head 1818 Sovereign's head 1818
1784 (LON)
1787 (LON)
1795 (LON)
1797 (LON)
1804 (LON)
1812 (DUB)
1818 (EDI)
1818 (LON)
Sovereign's head 1822 Sovereign's head 1823 Sovereign's head 1824 Sovereign's head 1825 Sovereign's head 1826 Sovereign's head 1829 Sovereign's head 1832
1822 (SHE)
1823 (LON)
1824 (BIR)
1825 (DUB)
1826 (LON)
1829 (DUB)
1832 (EDI)
Sovereign's head 1833 Sovereign's head 1835 Sovereign's head 1835 Sovereign's head 1838 Sovereign's head 1854 Sovereign's head 1862 Sovereign's head 1871 Sovereign's head 1871
1833 (GLA)
1835 (EDI)
1835 (LON)
1838 (LON)
1854 (LON)
1862 (BIR)
1871 (LON)
1871 (SHE)

From July 15 1797, for nine months, the King's Head was duplicated owing to the Duty being doubled.

Sheffield 1797, King's Head duplicated

The "Duty Drawback" mark was used from December 1, 1784 to July 24, 1785 to claim back the duty when the item was exported
The punch for this mark was engraved in two forms. One fairly large free standing figure and one much smaller example which was entirely enclosed within a punch outline

duty drawback mark with free standing figure duty drawback mark entirely enclosed within a punch outline

In English Colonies there was no official system of silver hallmarking. Local silversmiths used to identify their works with series of symbols imitating the English hallmarks.
The use of marks imitating "Sovereign's head", "town mark" and "date letter" used in the homeland was a common practice by American, Canadian, Australian and Cape silversmiths.
These marks were only a maker's mark with no official value and are commonly called "PSEUDO HALLMARKS".

Jacob Josephson, Australia Colony c. 1820 hallmark John Townsend, active 1824-1840, Cape Colony 1830 c. pseud-hallmark
Jacob Josephson, Australia Colony
c. 1820 pseudo-hallmark
John Townsend, active 1824-1840,
Cape Colony 1830 c. pseudo-hallmark
Jacob Josephson, Australia Colony c. 1820 hallmark Amos Page, Canada, Amherst - Nova Scotia c. 1870s pseudo hallmark
George Savage, Canada
c.1830-1850 pseudo hallmark
Amos Page, Canada, Amherst - Nova Scotia
c. 1870s pseudo hallmark
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